The Toronto Maple Leafs started ugly, finished ugly, and — tough calls aside — got what they deserved with a 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus on Monday night.

Your game in ten:

1.  To whom much is given, much is expected: It’s not good enough for Mitch Marner to pick up a nice assist shorthanded while giving up two at the other end — it might look like an even night with a point in the points column, but it’s not how winning happens. The awareness should’ve been there from the prescout that the Blue Jackets are aggressive up the ice forechecking on the PK; regardless of the opponent, though, it was simply too casual from Marner in his own end on the power play leading to the 1-0 Columbus shorthanded goal.

Also, a 59-second shift in three-on-three overtime is asking for trouble; Marner had two opportunities to peel to the bench between the 35-50 second mark of his shift and choose to stay on before getting beat up ice for the sequence leading to the OT winner (I should note he might’ve been okay on that backcheck if not for getting tripped up due to some incidental contact with Gustav Nyquist, causing him to stumble slightly before the rush turned up ice).

2.  Same goes for Auston Matthews — the preparedness from the start of the game has to be there and the details have to be there defensively; reaching in with the stick and hoping for the best as opposed to moving your feet and working to maintain inside positioning on your man driving the net isn’t good enough on the 2-0 tally. It’s October and no one should be panicking, but the Leafs’ best players need to start taking pride in starting on time — and that includes a Monday night against Columbus, not simply the HNIC rivalry game.

This isn’t a coaching issue — this is a case of $10+ million players needing to prepare themselves properly and fully engage in the game from the drop of the puck. The talent is obviously present in spades with this team, but the difference between good and great is in the details — and their best players need to take care of those better. “Don’t dipsy doodle and cough up the puck as the last man back on the PP,” and, “Don’t let your man beat you out of the corner and drive the net more or less unencumbered,” are not things any coach in the NHL should be reminding his best players of.

3.  Normally, I would be raising my eyebrows at no stars starting 3-on-3 OT (not a philosophy I’d adhere to), but I thought the message was kind of hard to argue with in the context of the game. The early breakaway and chances against were on Tyson Barrie anyway, as he had a clown car of a shift — he dropped his stick 15 seconds in and was picking it up as the breakaway happened, then didn’t pick up his man in the d-zone, and nearly fell over on his own volition in front.

4.  A couple of well-earned secondary assists on the 2-1 and 2-2 goals for Jake Muzzin, who remains the Leafs’ rock on defense so far this season. A good display of why he’s so effective at both ends on those goals: he was aggressive breaking up the play at the defensive blue line before initiating the breakout for the 2-1 shorty by Kasperi Kapapen, and strong on the puck pinching down the wall in the o-zone for the 2-2 goal by Matthews.

Muzzin played over five minutes shorthanded, too.

5.  Muzzin called out the team for their defensive play after the game and he has certainly earned the right to. He was also spot on: “I think we let them [come back]. No offense to them, but we did turnovers. We were spread out. We weren’t tight. We allowed them to get their forecheck going and they got momentum and chances from it. We took penalties. It is a recipe for giving goals up when you take penalties, turn over pucks, and play in your zone. You can’t win like that.”

For all the reasons above, it felt like the Leafs didn’t generate a forecheck the entire final 20 of regulation. It was really hard to watch how inevitable that tying goal was. I thought the Gauthier penalty was weak (same with the Kerfoot one in the late first), but one penalty in a 20-minute period isn’t enough of an excuse to justify the Leafs’ play in the third.

6.  One silver lining to all the penalties: The penalty kill looked good, by and large, tying goal aside. It’s nice the Leafs have some larger forwards who cover ice well, use their reach to take away lanes, and do a good job of staying positionally sound / starting and stopping. Ilya Mikheyev is particularly good in those areas (4:28 in PK time tonight), but Nick Shore and Frederik Gauthier did a decent job, too, as secondary options, while Trevor Moore has really taken up the slack in Hyman’s absence (Of course, Marner and Kapanen also combined for the shortie). Granted, it’s not exactly a lights-out power play on Columbus’ side.

The PK has given up a goal in three consecutive, but they’ve also scored twice and have been worked 13 times in the last three games (two great power plays in Boston and Washington were also in the mix there). It’s mid-pack in the league right now, but it was a huge question mark coming into the year without Brown, Hainsey, Zaitsev, and Hyman (temporarily). It’s hanging in there okay with a major personnel overhaul. Big test again tomorrow in Boston, though.

7 Martin Marincin played 8:30 tonight — not hard to see why, as his play for the icing before the 2-0 goal was a real head-scratcher; he had all the time in the world and a teammate available 15 feet away but wired an awkward slap pass the length of the ice. He then gave one away in front of his own net a few minutes later. He never played that little all of last season, but he does have one more eight-minute game to his name earlier this year vs. Montreal. What’s interesting is that he had DJ Smith’s trust on the PK but does not appear to have earned Dave Hakstol’s. He’s only averaging 1:06/game there and played zero PK time tonight despite the flurry of penalties.

8.  Justin Holl, meanwhile, is averaging 2:13 per game shorthanded (3:55 on the PK tonight) while looking pretty solid at 5v5 (winning his fair share of battles, moving the puck well overall, good stick defensively). The PK time is a big check in the plus column in favour of Holl remaining a permanent regular when Travis Dermott comes back. There was some chance Marincin could’ve shifted to the right — or Dermott to the right and Marincin on the left — but that’s unlikely at this point. Good for Holl.

9.  If you want to see why Jason Spezza has been scratched by multiple coaches in Dallas (including for playoff games) and now by Babcock in Toronto, go back and watch how he took care of the puck in this game.

The Leafs were setting up for an extra-attacker situation in the first period and he blind drop-passed it to the other team. He turned another puck over high in the offensive zone and then immediately took a penalty in the second. Later that period, he had the puck with teammates driving towards the net — including Morgan Rielly wide open at the back post — and sent one into Korpisalo’s chest, leading to a rush back the other way… which he was slow back on, before wandering in the d-zone with his stick at his waist. Spezza always had these frustrating elements to his game, but he used to more than make up for it by being lights out offensively. Now…

10.  There are few calls going their way, an unusual number of back-to-backs, pretty tough competition — including a brutal roadie to Boston tomorrow to play the rested Bruins — and no John Tavares, Zach Hyman, or Travis Dermott… I think this is actually good for the team to experience now in October rather than at a more critical point of the year. Stress test the team, put them through some early adversity, and make them come out the other side better for it. This team should be judged by a Cup-contending standard, so I’ve been harsh on some players in this review, but I think the early obstacles could be good for them in the long run.


Game Flow: 5v5 Shot Attempts

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Columbus Blue Jackets


Game Highlights: Blue Jackets 4 vs. Leafs 3 (OT)